The other day when grocery shopping with my dad, I ran into an old high school classmate I was relatively good friends with. We chitchatted and I told her about how I had been sick so I haven't been as up-to-date with everyone as I should be, etc. and she says something along the condescending lines of, “Yeah, you're always sick.”
Wait, hold up. I haven't seen you in years, everything was going well, we were laughing and having small talk, and then KABOOM—there it is—my illness is held against me once again.
She simply said goodbye after that, taking her Spam and kosher pickles with her, but the image has been imprinted in my brain long after.
It's not just that silly incident to make me think of how past friends have perceived my sickness. There are countless others that I won't get into. The real point is...how has it gotten this far that I'm left with only talking to maybe two people every other day? If that, really.
When have my friends become strangers? Strangers who either don't know I'm still sick (they emphasize the “still” in a way you've never heard before) or who are almost tired of hearing about me being sick.
I had a friend once say that communication works both ways, and that is certainly true. But ask any person with a chronic illness how hard it is to make that effort. Some days we are in too much pain to want to start or continue a conversation (even texting). Maybe we don't want to burden you with our problems. Perhaps we're in a depressive state once again, thinking about failed medical treatments and all the other crap we have to put up with. Communication works both ways, but sometimes we just want you to contact us and talk to us, to tell us everything is going to be OK, that we're warriors and to fight it out. That we have a friend.
So what to do when there's no longer someone there for you like that in your life?
When that person has become a complete stranger, like they once were to begin with?
Either brave up and say, “Hello” again.
Or meet a new stranger.
I'm working on both at the moment and trying not to let people like grocery store girl interfere.